Building on the Biden Administration’s strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, and as world leaders begin gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal under the Clean Air Act to significantly expand regulation of methane from oil and gas operations in the United States. The proposal—issued in conjunction with measures proposed by at least five other cabinet-level agencies to address GHG emissions—is part of President Biden’s “whole of government” approach to addressing climate change and represents EPA’s most ambitious regulatory effort to date to curb oil and gas sector emissions. EPA estimates compliance costs of $12 billion (present value, 3% discount rate) for existing sources, which it indicates would be offset by an estimated $4.7 billion (present value) through the capture of natural gas pursuant to the fugitive emission requirements in the proposal.
On October 27, 2020, in a succinct order, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“the Court” or “D.C. Circuit”) denied motions for stay and for summary vacatur filed by several environmental advocacy groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club, as well as states and local governments, with leadership from the States of New York and California in litigation challenging EPA’s Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review, 85 Fed. Reg. 57,018 (Sept. 14, 2020) (“Methane Repeal Rule,” or the “Rule”). Order at 1, California, et al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et al., No. 20-1357 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 27, 2020). In addition to an opposition filed by EPA, regulated industry trade groups, including the American Petroleum Institute (“API”), weighed in with the Court on EPA’s behalf to oppose the stay.
In the latest of a series of moves reflecting the state’s intention to double down on its climate change agenda in the wake of President Trump’s inauguration, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently approved a new regulation aimed at curbing methane emissions from oil and gas operations. This measure, characterized by CARB as “the most comprehensive of its kind in the country,” comes on the heels of several actions recently announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to reassess the climate change programs of the previous administration, specifically those targeted at oil and gas sector emissions.
Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed its much-anticipated proposal to require that public companies disclose climate-related information. The proposed rule is significant because, for the first time, the SEC would mandate that companies (including foreign companies) publicly traded in the US disclose climate-related risk and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions information beyond the risk information currently required by existing SEC rules applicable to registration statements and annual reports.
After over two weeks of conferencing, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP26) concluded with the finalization of the Glasgow Climate Pact (the “Glasgow Pact”) listing the accomplishments of the summit. The Glasgow Pact reaffirms the long-term global goals (including those in the Paris Agreement) to hold the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It also states that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires “rapid, deep, and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases.” Continue Reading The Results of COP26
On November 1, 2021, as the world commences the COP26 gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, for the next round of global climate negotiations, the White House, under the signatures of John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, issued a strategy stating that achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 is possible and outlining the broad steps for doing so. The Long-term Strategy of the United States: Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 includes the following key elements: Continue Reading What You Need to Know About the Biden Administration’s “Long-Term Strategy” with “Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050”
The world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the next round of global climate negotiations – the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP26) – during the first two weeks of November. COP26 is a continuation of the process to flesh out the details and to implement the Paris Agreement, which committed almost every nation to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Paris Agreement sets a goal to keep the global average temperature from rising by 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels and, failing that, prevent it from increasing by 2°C (3.6°F). Continue Reading COP26: What to Expect in Glasgow?
On October 8, 2020, Wyoming federal district court Judge Skavdahl struck down the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Waste Prevention Rule,” otherwise known as the “Venting and Flaring Rule,” which had been promulgated on November 18, 2016, in the closing months of President Obama’s second term (“2016 Rule”). See Order on Pets. for Review of Final Agency Action, Wyoming v. U.S. Dep’t of Interior, No. 2:16-CV-0285-SWS (D. Wyo. Oct. 8, 2020) (Order vacating 2016 Rule). The detailed fifty-seven-page decision concludes that in issuing the 2016 Rule, BLM exceeded its statutory authority and acted arbitrarily. The core of the court’s holding was that the 2016 Rule was grounded in air quality motivations, which was the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, therefore, beyond BLM’s statutory authority to promulgate.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1371 nearly six years ago, directing the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board to work together to further the dual goals of minimizing safety hazards associated with gas pipeline leaks and reducing pipeline greenhouse gas emissions.
Flaring has the attention of RRC, Producers and Stakeholders
Flaring has the attention of the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), oil and natural gas companies and stakeholders such as royalty owners, investors and environmental groups. Requests for RRC authorization of flaring has been on the increase in the Permian Basin. As a result, a number of interested parties are looking at regulatory changes. Some interested parties voice concern that a valuable resource is being wasted, others state that the definition of natural gas ‘waste’ is too limited, still others are concerned about methane emissions and some all of the above. Though the interested parties may not always be aligned, there is a general sense that regulatory amendments are needed.